Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Captain Merros Dulver is the first in many lifetimes to find a path beyond the great mountains known as the Seven Forges and encounter, at last, the half-forgotten race who live there. And it would appear that they were expecting him. As he returns home, bringing an entourage of strangers with him, he starts to wonder whether his discovery has been such a good thing. For the gods of this lost race are the gods of war, and their memories of that far-off cataclysm have not faded.
The people of Fellein have live with legends for many centuries. To their far north, the Blasted Lands, a legacy of an ancient time of cataclysm, are vast, desolate and impassable, but that doesn’t stop the occasional expedition into their fringes in search of any trace of the ancients who had once lived there… and oft-rumored riches.
Thoughts: The Seven Forges mountain range is a brutal and cold place, thought to be uninhabited. That it, until Merros Dulver and his team start to explore and are approached by a band of Sa’ba Taalor, led by a man, Drask, who claims that his gods sent him to find Merros. Thus begins the meeting of two kingdoms, two cultures, and the complex political affair that arises from it.
Seven Forges is a novel that has been making the rounds lately, with many people calling it a YA novel when it in fact is meant for adults. I can see why it’s mistaken as such, though. The writing style is similar to that of many YA novels, clear and somewhat simplistic, and what sex is mentioned is mentioned in a sentence or two with little detail to embellish it. It comes across very much like a YA traditional fantasy when it’s not meant to be, and I’m still of two minds as to whether to makes it good (increased likelihood that younger readers may enjoy it) or bad (could turn away adult readers looking for a more sophisticated style of storytelling).
The story itself isn’t bad. It’s mostly two intertwining stories: the first of Drask’s encounter with the Sa’ba Taalor and the subsequent bringing them to the Emperor, and the second the story of Andover, a man who loses his hands and has them replaced by the gods of the newly-arrived Sa’ba Taalor and joins them as an Imperial emissary. There’s some interesting world-building going on, and culture-clash stories done well get to highlight the inherent differences and similarities between cultures, and Seven Forges isn’t an exception in that regard.
The biggest problem is that the story is slow, seeming to be little but a story of the meeting of 2 cultures until the book is almost over. It comes together in the last 10-20 pages, and in a big way, suddenly tying together half a dozen plot points and adding a load of intrigue. However, it’s a lot to ask people to sit through a somewhat meandering story just to get to the last few pages of action, especially when so many of the characters felt distant and unconcerned with everything going on around them. A good example of this is the Emperor’s nephew getting challenge to a blood duel for offending the Sa’ba Taalor. Entire chapters are devoted to the set-up of the battle, discussions about why it should or shouldn’t happens, ways around it… and I couldn’t feel a drop of urgency or concern from anyone involved. The Sa’ba Taalor are supposed to be stoic and straightforward, and I felt more emotion from them than I did from the guy who’s about to watch his nephew get beaten into the dust.
If I didn’t know better, I’d have said this was a YA author’s first foray into adult writing, or a debut author. There was potential there, absolutely, but the writing felt largely unpolished and mostly unemotional, making even scenes in which a thousand people are slaughtered feel more like a dispassionate news report than an event we’re watching through a character’s eyes.
The ending, though, made me want to continue with the series and see what the author is planning next. Like I said, this isn’t a bad book. It just had a few long-running problems that made reading it less pleasant than I feel it could have been. It’s a solid 3 stars in my mind, and I’m hoping that as the author gets more comfortable with the world and people he’s created, those problems dissipate in the second book. Worth reading, perhaps, but I’ll reserve my opinions on whether it would be worth buying until I see how the series progresses.
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)